30 years since the first case of AIDS

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in 1981, or 30 years ago the first case of AIDS was diagnosed and published in a report by the Centres for disease control in the US. The emergence of a new disease that spread through contact sent the medical fraternity into a spin, this was potentially apocalyptic if we did not find a cure or learn very quickly how to control the spread of the Virus.

The HIV virus was a non discriminatory virus, infecting adults, children, men and women from every walk of life and every culture. While this was a discovery of epic proportions that had the medical fraternity rushing around trying to find answers and solutions to the deadly virus, imagine for a moment if you will, what was going on in the boardrooms of the Worlds Life Insurance companies. The possibility of millions of people becoming infected with a disease for which there was no cure was potentially catastrophic for the Insurance Industry and if you took out Life Insurance in the late 80’s or early 90’s you will be familiar with the extensive medical exams that were necessary before you could take out life Insurance.

Since 1981 the world has gone through a major change in attitude towards the virus which we now understand very well and have a handle on the prevention of infection, evidenced by the significant decrease in new infections over the last 5 years. In South Africa we have seen a 20% decline in the number of new HIV infections which means that the education on prevention of the spread of the HIV virus has been well communicated and targets are becoming close to being met.

Alarmingly, but not surprisingly Sub-Saharan Africa is responsible for as many as 69% of new HIV infections and up to 73% of all HIV related deaths in the World. These alarming numbers can be directly attributed to the fact that there are enormous numbers of people living in rural communities that are not well educated and the influence of customs and tribal laws often prevents people from using measures to protect themselves against the spread of the virus.

While we have not yet found a cure or vaccination against the HIV virus, the antiretroviral treatments available today are extremely effective with people living long and full lives with the HIV virus.

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